If you’re hoping to find some good music to listen to, its hard to go wrong by picking up a Chiptunes = WIN compilation. Volume 4 really hammers home that point. Every single contribution made is truly a masterwork by their respective artists. In writing this review, I spent the better part of four hours listening to these five tracks on repeat. You know what? I’d do it again. They are truly just that good.
That said, hop the fold and let’s get to the real MVPs of the day. (more…)
Sup everyone! Welcome back to Quick Shots! This time around I’ve got albums up for review that are sure to catch you off guard with their diversity. Not only are these albums stylistically expansive, but they feature the largest array of artists ever covered for Quick Shots! So grab your butts and hold on tight, because we’re going on a ride through four awesome records that are sure to hold you over nicely til the 2015 winter festival season!
Snooglebum’s “8-Bit Zoo 2”
My first target this time around is 8-bit Zoo 2 by Matthew Wasik aka Snooglebum. Now if you’re wondering why that name sounds familiar, it’s because he’s been featured on two consecutiveChipWIN releases, and for good reason. Snoog’s got a combination of skill, variety and brevity seen in very few composers, and all of that shines through in his latest offering.
A follow up to an EP he released almost a year ago, 8-bit Zoo 2 follows the tradition established in its prequel as he busts out jams that are groovy, twerky, and just all around good fun. Whether its high energy work-out tracks like the opening song–“Epic Cheetah”–or the two stepping urban vibe of the deceptively named “Silent Swan”, Snooglebum is an artist who rarely disappoints. Which is both a shame and a boon because while it speaks volumes about his skill level, it also means that I really don’t have anything bad to say about this album.
Bottom line: if you’ve not heard any of Snooglebum’s music til now, or have only heard the tracks he’s contributed to ChipWIN, I highly recommend starting with 8-bit Zoo 2 and its older counterpart. Both are exemplary of why Matthew’s such a beloved contributor to ChipWIN and the scene as a whole.
Fave song: Reggae Moose
Bang for Buck: 5/5
Replay Value: 4.5/5
Overall Grade: 4.8/5
Up next we have a new chiptuner named Billy Murphy, aka Half A Person. A composer hailing from New York, what’s bodacious about Billy (aside from the fact that he’s yet another up-and-coming New York chiptuner) is that while he is a relatively new artist to the scene, Billy EP is hardly his first album. In fact, it’s his third EP in just as many months. That level of productivity is one to be admired, especially in a new artist, but does Half A Person’s gumption mean he has produced a good album?
This EP certainly isn’t bad, but I can’t help but be reminded of another neophyte I reviewed earlier in the year: Dream*Eater. Billy EP shows that, much like Dream*Eater, Half A Person is an enthusiastic composer who has moments throughout the album that shine and reveal his potential, but often falls short of making something magnificent. Moments such as the opening 15 seconds of “You Can Tell I’m New…” or the breakdown in “Son, Don’t Touch That Record Player” are great examples of this nascent talent.
On the other hand, songs like “Swing Your Hips/Swing Your Fists” and “Is it OK to Overwrite?” feel like they’re lacking something. That missing something is worsened by the fact that those songs aren’t bad, they’re just average. A shame, because average is often forgettable, and as part of the next wave of chiptuners coming into the scene, HAP is not someone I think should be overlooked.
So, Billy Murphy, if you’re reading this, I’m gonna tell you the same thing I told Dream*Eater:
“Keep making music at the consistent clip you do, but when it comes to putting out an album, give your stuff time to simmer so you can really bring out its full flavor.”
This EP wasn’t bad, but you’ve got serious skills, so get back to the studio and make something worthy of those talents! I am definitely looking forward to hearing more from you!
Fave Song: Driving To My Girlfriend’s House At 1 AM To Help Her Kill A Spider
Bang for Buck: 5/5
Replay Value: 3.3/5
Overall Rating: 3.7/5
I Thought You Were A Marxist Records’ “Operation Fuck The Moon”
Our next album up for review is one that really caught me off guard, as I not only had never heard of the record label that put it out, but I haven’t heard of any of the artists that contributed to it, either! Created because he felt the need to have a chiptune album under his label’s belt, Andrew Robbins of I Thought You Were A Marxist Records has put together an unexpected delight of an album with one of the most awesome names I’ve ever heard! If that title alone somehow doesn’t give you a raging fist-pump boner, I can assure you the music featured on this record will!
From the simple joy the opening track by Ozark Soundscape (from which the album takes its name) to the surprisingly groovy, begging-to-be-remixed “Go Radio” by Collection Get!; the creepy, industrial banger that is lain2097‘s “VGGB” to the surprisingly emotional roller coaster that is Taylor Fang‘s “The Burning of the Royal Crops Part I: The Magician”, this album has done two things successfully I’ve seen other labels try to do but fall short of.
First, it lovingly showcases an incredible array of skills in a way that, when played from end to end, does each artist justice. Each song, regardless of style or method, fits nicely against one another when played in track order, as no one artist feels overshadowed by another when played straight through. That in and of itself is amazing, but the second thing it’s done correctly is that it’s made me aware of several people I didn’t know were lurking in the shadows all along.
Admittedly, lurking may not even be the correct term, as Andrew Robbins himself states he recruited these people from /r/chiptunes and cm.o, but even in a community as small as chiptune, people tend to fall into their own circles and tend to communicate primarily in preferred locals. Having been a part of ChipWIN for so long, it seems I’ve almost forgotten there is a world out there beyond the 2800 members of the Faceboook group I’ve come to call home.
So Andrew Robbins, if you or any of the astoundingly accomplished artists featured on this compilation are reading this, thanks for reminding me there are others out there. It’s a wonderful reminder to know there’s always something new to be discovered. Also, feel free to come to ChipWIN to chat, derp around or make yourselves more known. I know I may have to get out of my “house” every now and then to meet you guys, but just know that at ChipWIN, our doors are always open, and you’re more than welcome hang out at ours. Just…don’t do any “Is this chiptune?” posts.
Favorite songs: Go Radio, The Burning of the Royal Crops
Bang for Buck: 5/5
Replay Value: 4.7/5
Overall Grade: 4.8/5
Our last album up for review is Moments In Time: a record from an artist I’ve adored since I first reviewed his work in my first Quick Shots article. Hailing from Brisbane, Australia, Tommy Fullerton, aka TommyTSW, has released another prime album full of incredible music that hits the sweet spot every single time. Combining familiar retro sounds with various samples and instruments as he’s done before, Moments In Time (alternatively titled TSW3 due to the cover art) sets itself apart from it’s first predecessor in several ways.
First, Tommy’s increased use of strings. While TSW’s work has always been eclectic and atmospheric, this album goes one step beyond as TSW has clearly taken the time to really study and practice his use of orchestral samples, allowing for a lush, vivid experience that ties directly into the second improvement Tommy has made, which is establishing mood.
While I’ve always lauded Tommy’s ability to create stirring aria, being able to make songs that move the soul and being able to make an album that does that are two different things. While Tommy’s album TSW certainly did move me, it moved me less as a whole and more as a sum of it’s parts. Having seemingly learned from that experience, Tommy has made an album that flows through seamlessly and also breathes, which is important as that’s another aspect he’s grown in.
TSW was an album that, for all intents and purposes, played like a musical portfolio to showcase Mr. Fullerton’s skills. While those skills were formidable, the result was music that wasn’t allowed to be fully explored and didn’t offer chances for either Tommy or the listener to really take in everything he crafted. The exact opposite is true with Moments in Time, as not only has the average song length gone up from roughly 95 seconds to three and a half minutes, but each one stands out on its own, allowing them to be individual experiences unto themselves.
The culmination of all these attributes result what is Tommy’s greatest achievement date. Tommy has finally made an album that feels like an album and not like display case for his talents. That alone deserves praise.
In fact, Tommy’s garnered so much praise from me on this effort that I only have one complaint about this album. While certainly not expensive by any means, it’s strange to note that compared to TSW, which was $2 when I first reviewed it and is now pay-what-you-will, Moments in Time/TSW3 is $4 for an EP that has exactly a third of the amount of tracks as it’s predecessor. A strange decision, to be sure, but despite that choice, Moments in Time is undoubtedly a treasure worth adding to your collection. If you do have the money to shell out for it, I strongly recommend doing so, as it’s not only a great listen, but it’s proof that Tommy is bound to achieve his dream of becoming a highly sought after game composer.
Favorite Song: Have Faith
Price: $4 (Austrailian)
Bang for Buck: 4/5
Replay Value: 5/5
Overall Grade: 4.8/5
Well, that’s it for this round of Quick Shots! If you liked any of the artists you’ve heard, don’t forget to follow them on social media to keep up with their latest shenanigans. Also, don’t forget to check the ChipWIN blog regularly for other articles such as album reviews, artist interviews, recipes, and all sorts of hype we got going on here! Last but not least, if you’re an artist who’s struggling to get noticed in the scene, don’t be discouraged, cause you never know when I might take a shot at ya! Keep doing what you do, and remember: Kuma loves you! Peace!
Hey everyone, Glenntai here with more rambling and opinions masked as credible reviews! If you’ve gotten to this point, you have either read the other reviews or just clicked on this via facebook! You won’t believe what happens next!
Alright, enough of this pretending-to-be-witty bullshit, let’s get on with the review!
[Turtle Princess] Hey guuuuuuurl. [/Turtle Princess] I know you guys are itching to get through more of these dope chiptunes, so let’s not stall any longer, hmm?
Track #17: SUPER MANLY BROS. X by Phonetic Hero
First up we’ve got Super Manly Bros X by Phonetic Hero, AKA Pete Lepley! You may remember his previous work with us, or perhaps his jamming along with other ChipWIN contributor Theory of N, but if not, you should definitely get out there and check his work on Bandcamp (handy links provided for you at the end of the article!).This track is reminiscent of the first Mega Man X title – which is good because Mega Man X is amazing and had a soundtrack that everyone wishes was the soundtrack to their own life.* I could honestly imagine this being Idris Elba’s theme, were this for the soundtrack of a Pacific Rim SNES game – it’s badass-flavored, with a lot of drive pushing it forward.
Track #18: Oynx by Zef
Oh man Zef! You know, Zef AKA Chris Penner! Another return ChipWINner Zef continues to bring the pain. And by pain, of course, what I mean is sick beats. Zef is known for good dance music, and good dance music is what you get with Onyx. He eases you in, gets you headbobbing, and then suddenly you’re po-going and you have no idea why but you’re sure as hell not going to stop. It’s a nice mix of low and high energy music all in one track. It’s a song that conveys motion: while some songs are just kind of there, as an ambient cloud, Onyx makes the listener feel like they’re traveling – like they’re moving along towards the end of the song, instead of just waiting for it. And at four minutes, the track is long enough to suck you in and make you a part of it without feeling like you’re left unfulfilled and wanting.
Track #19: Face Nation: A Nation of Faces by S.P.R.Y.
S.P.R.Y. (AKA Narayan Choudury) is a newcomer to our compilations – but he’s already become part of the family, having been responsible for mastering the Pxl-Win album. Back to the track, though,the percussion usage here is really fun – S.P.R.Y. makes heavy use of what I like to call “maniac drums,” by which I mean the kind of drums that if you were watching a live person do it, you’d think they were a maniac because their hands would be flying all over the place. This is a perfect example of one of those songs that has both fast parts and slow parts functioning at the same time which makes the song almost seem like clockwork, with each speed functioning as a gear to move the others. You’ve also got a repeated loop as the head, but it ends up changing voicing every few repeats, so the song actually ends up having a lot more depth to it. It’s fried gold, it is.
Track #20: Silverfish Riot by Snooglebum
The mysterious entity known as Snooglebum may be a newcomer to ChipWIN but he’s been quite busy when it comes to making chiptunes – his Bandcamp boasts quite a few albums, which you should go apply to your eardrums. Silverfish Riot is super fun – it’s simultaneously slow, but high energy. I’m not really sure how that works, but it’s quite good. Strong, punchy bass drums always make a song feel tough, and while the melody is a mid-length loop, it ends up being punctuated with a few variations. The song exudes the purest extract of danceyness – while some songs are labeled “dance music,” it takes a lot for a song to actually move someone to move themselves along to the beat more than just tapping their feet, and this song’s got it.
Track #21: Miami Lights by Masikus
The final track here, Miami Lights by Masikus (AKA Angel Hernandez), is nice and trip-hoppy. I love trip-hop. I love chiptunes. So getting them both in one go is pretty fantastic, in my opinion. It’s great chillmode music, and serves as a nice counterpoint to the past several more high-energy tracks. With much slower beats, it’s got this soothing groove going on, and with the nice airy section starting ~1:10, it’s got this nice, wide-open and relaxed feeling to it. It’s just…soothing. Soothing is not normally a quality I ascribe to chiptunes, but this track is just that.
That’s all for this time! Tune in next time, where we will all be covering this album on Brandon’s assorted collection of jaw-harps.** And keep an eye here on the blog, because big things are coming! I know that sounds like the normal blog rhetoric, but I actuallymean that!
*Don’t sass me, boy, you know it’s true.
**I’m joking, we’re not going to do such a horrible thing to you!